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UFC 164: What’s at Stake

UFC 164: What’s at Stake

UFC 164: “Henderson vs. Pettis” will take place on Saturday from the BMO Harris Bradley Center in Milwaukee, WI. A bout between UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson and the last man to defeat him, former WEC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis, will headline the card.

UFC gold will not be the only thing on the line on Saturday night; every fight on the pay-per-view portion of the card offers some type of intriguing storyline. Read on to find out what’s at stake for each main card bout. 

Erik Koch vs. Dustin Poirier

Odds: Erik Koch -155 favorite over Dustin Poirier +125

To be blunt, what’s at stake in the opening fight on the pay-per-view portion of UFC 164 is relevance in the featherweight division. True, both fighters are ranked in the top ten in the division, but they’re both also coming off losses, losses to opponents that are ranked above them in the top ten.

This fight is important in that it could establish whether or not Koch and Poirier are truly top ten fighters at 145 pounds.

Poirier’s last fight was a unanimous decision defeat to Cub Swanson, while Koch was TKO’d by Ricardo Lamas in his last outing.

Prior to his loss to Swanson, Poirier defeated Jonathan Brookins and lost to Chan Sung Jung.  For Koch, he saw a four-fight winning streak come to an end when Lamas stopped him.

Poirier is currently ranked No. 6 in the featherweight division, while Koch is sitting in the No. 10 spot. It would not be surprising to see the loser of this bout dropping out of the top 10. The winner won’t earn a title shot, but he will stay alive in a crowded and exciting weight class.

Ben Rothwell vs. Brandon Vera

Brandon Vera favorite -135 over Ben Rothwell +105 

I could see this fight being a loser leaves town bout.  Neither Vera nor Rothwell has been particularly successful during their tenure in the UFC.

Vera did offer the promotion some hope early in his career when he went 2-0 as a member of the WEC before joining the UFC and earning four more victories. Since then, Vera has gone 4-6-0-1, and been released by the promotion. That release was brief since it followed his UFC 125 loss to Thiago Silva, a loss that was ruled a no contest after Silva falsified his urine sample.  Vera is 1-3-0-1 in his last five fights and has not strung two wins together since defeating Krzysztof Soszynski and Mike Patt in 2009.

Rothwell joined the UFC in 2009. At that time, he was sporting a 30-6 record as a professional. Today, his record is 32-9, with his two UFC wins coming over Gilbert Yvel and Brendan Schaub. His losses have come to Gabriel Gonzaga, Mark Hunt and Cain Velasquez so it’s not like he’s losing to lower rung heavyweights, but a drop to 2-4 with a loss to Vera is probably going to have UFC matchmaker Joe Silva wondering about Rothwell’s viability with the promotion.

Chad Mendes vs. Clay Guida

Chad Mendes favorite (-450) over Clay Guida (+350)

Like the Poirier versus Koch bout, this one will see two top ten featherweights square off inside the Octagon. Unlike that fight, the pressure on these two is not relevance in the division. Well, at least not for one of them.

Mendes is the No. 1 ranked fighter in the division. Mendes’ only career loss was at the hands of UFC champion, Jose Aldo. Well, more accurately it was at the knee of Aldo, as he finished Mendes in the first round of their 2012 bout with a devastating knee to the head.  Since that loss, Mendes has finished three straight opponents in the first round.

Any hopes Mendes has of earning another shot at Aldo depend on him defeating Guida on Saturday.

This will be Guida’s second fight at featherweight. He dropped to the 135-pound limit after losing to Benson Henderson and Gray Maynard at lightweight.

Guida’s first fight at featherweight was a split decision over Hatsu Hioki. Guida’s style in that bout, as well as in his previous bout with Maynard, left many fans wondering who the fighter was they were watching in the Octagon. Gone was the brawling wild style that had made Guida a fan favorite, and in its place was what many described as a Guida running away from the fight.

If you think that style is going to do Guida any favors, even in victory, you may want to think about the level of disdain UFC president Dana White had for Rory MacDonald’s performance when he defeated Jake Ellenberger at UFC on Fox 8.  If you forget, White said (via of MacDonald, “I don’t think he moves down the ladder, but do you think anybody’s screaming to see him in a f***ing fight again. We live in a business, unfortunately, that you’re as good as your last fight.”

Remember, that was with a win, a win where McDonald, for the most part did move forward. If Guida uses his new point-fighting style to earn a victory, he’ll most likely stay close to where he is in the featherweight division (No. 9). If he loses and does so using the style he used against Maynard and Hioki, expect him to fall out of the top ten. Also expect White to let him know exactly why he fell from that position.

Frank Mir vs. Josh Barnett

Josh Barnett favorite (-175) over Frank Mir (+145)

No, you have not stepped into the way back machine. This fight is actually going to take place in 2013, and it is going to be the co-main event of UFC 164. Not only that, there is a lot at stake for both Barnett and Mir.

Barnett returns to the UFC for the first time since being dumped after a positive steroid test in 2002. That sacking came shortly after Barnett defeated Randy Couture for the UFC heavyweight title at UFC 36.

Barnett has a great deal of baggage that comes with him. In addition to the failed drug tests (yes, there was more than one), Barnett has always been an individual that is unafraid to speak his mind, something that has gotten him on the wrong side of UFC president Dana White in the past. He’s also carrying with him a pretty hefty contract, earning $200,000 for his last disclosed payday, a loss to Daniel Cormier.

Barnett is a draw for the UFC, but he’s also a headache waiting to happen for White, so don’t think for a second that White won’t at least debate letting Barnett go if he loses to Mir on Saturday in Milwaukee.

Mir also has to worry about his job. If he loses, he’ll have three straight defeats on his record, and that is never a good thing, event for a veteran like Mir. Time has been catching up with the 34-year-old Mir as of late, and another loss may have him receiving the Chuck Liddell talk from UFC president Dana White.

If that’s the case don’t be surprised to see Mir show up as another member of the Fox Sports 1 UFC broadcasting team.

Benson Henderson vs. Anthony Pettis

Benson Henderson favorite (-125) over Anthony Pettis (-105)

One good thing about this fight finally taking place is the fact that we will no longer have to see the endless replays of the “Showtime” kick that Pettis delivered to Henderson the first time these two met in December 2010.

That fight was the final bout in the history of the WEC, and it ended with Pettis having his hand raised in victory. Since that win Pettis has been kind of a hard luck story.

Pettis thought the WEC title would lead to a shot at the winner of the bout between UFC lightweight champion Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard. Unfortunately for him that fight ended in a tie, and an Edgar injury delayed the rematch.  That led to Pettis risking a bout with Clay Guida. The risk did not pay off, as Pettis dropped a decision to Guida.

That loss delayed his road to the title shot. As Pettis attempted to work his way back to a title shot, he watched Henderson defeat Guida and then defeat Edgar for the belt. Since then, Henderson has defended the title three times.

All of Henderson’s title defense victories have been decision wins, and two of those victories have been split decisions. Henderson seems to be playing with fire, squeaking out wins with well timed techniques that he knows will score him points in the eyes of the judges.

The problem for Henderson is that Pettis’ flashy style and willingness to attempt some (literally) off the wall maneuvers of his own may earn Pettis the attention of the judges. When you also figure in that the fight will take place in Pettis’ hometown of Milwaukee, you have the chance that the crowd will also play a part in the judging.

There’s no doubt that Henderson is a special fighter, but his style of point fighting will one day catch up to him, that day could be Saturday.